Under Brown, Sixers focused on attacking rim

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Under Brown, Sixers focused on attacking rim

The Sixers were back at the friendly confines of their PCOM practice facility Thursday afternoon after spending the previous six days overseas.

Their participation in the NBA’s Global Games proved to be a positive experience both on and off the court.

For first-year head coach Brett Brown it was a great learning experience in getting to know his team.

The Sixers played two close games, winning one and losing one and in both Brown saw a group that has little control. You would think would drive a coach crazy, but not Brown, not at this stage of the game.

“We are not going to have any controlled pace, we are going,” Brown said smiling. “The negatives are how much we turn it over and how wild we are and how reckless we are and not really understanding time and score. But in an inverted way it is not a bad thing.”

“They are trying to get out and make plays and make things happen, so the turnovers were generated by that frantic pace. If I had one or the other now, I would choose pace. We will try to calm down as things move forward.”

The Sixers committed 46 turnovers in the two games, but that frantic pace also allowed for guys to get to the rim, where at times they were able to finish. Other times they were rewarded by going to the foul line.

Evan Turner in particular showed his willingness to attack -- something we had previously seen on occasion. This year the three-year veteran promises it will be in his daily repertoire.

“I feel the whole thing is not stopping short sometimes,” Turner said. “Attack, try to go up and go strong. Sometimes after a while I would stop attacking and stop short and just shoot pull-ups. So I am trying to find bodies and make sure I keep the ball up. That is key.”

In two games Turner’s aggressive approach was rewarded with a team-high 22 free throw attempts.

For comparison, last season Turner averaged a career high 2.5 free throw attempts per game and the Sixers as a whole averaged 16.8, second-fewest in the NBA.

That number will increase this season because Brown has all his players thinking about getting to the paint.

“We just try to take what’s there and take good shots every possession,” guard Tony Wroten said. “If the three-pointer is there we are going to take a good three-pointer, but getting to the hole and getting to the paint is our priority.”

Wroten excelled in both areas, tying James Anderson for the team lead with four threes, as well as making 16 of 18 free throw attempts.

“We talk to our players that it has to finish with the paint," Brown said. "Just getting the ball over halfcourt quickly and not continuing to do something with it is not what we are trying to do. We want to try to get to the paint, get to the line, get to the rim. I feel like we are doing that.”

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens [Noel]-Jahlil [Okafor] thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist. 

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers' abundance of big men lends itself to numerous combinations in the frontcourt.

On Thursday, Nerlens Noel had his first experience playing with Ben Simmons. The center gelled with the rookie forward.

"It's a great duo, I think," Noel said following the morning practice session of training camp at Stockton University.

Noel has been paired with many big men during his career with the Sixers. Last season, he faced the challenge of playing out of position at times with Jahlil Okafor. The logjam prompted him to speak out about the current makeup of the roster (see story).

After playing with Simmons, Noel saw how the two can share the court.

"I think we complement each other very well, especially on the defensive end," Noel said. "He's definitely a lockdown type defender that digs in."

Even though Simmons has yet to play an NBA game, Noel already envisions how he can help the Sixers.

"He just plays basketball the right way," Noel said. "When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."